(cf. Title Reference here. Video clip here)
The Naked Cowboy -- Time Square's tighty-whitey wearing, guitar-toting tourist magnet -- announced he's running for President in 2012… as a member of the Tea Party.
The familiar white briefs, boots, cowboy hat, and long hair were nowhere to be seen at a press conference on Wednesday in his old haunt, Times Square. This time the underwear-sporting cowboy, whose real name is Robert John Burck, was garbed in a suit and tie with his cropped hair slicked back.
Burck, who is registered as a Republican in Ohio, slammed President Obama and declared the Tea Party was "the only legitimate grassroots movement."
"America is rapidly transforming into a government-run enterprise," the over-exposed tourist attraction said, adding that "American politicians are selling out America and its most cherished institution, that being capitalism."
The Teabaggers have already made a mockery of American politics. I would not have believed it possible after America re-elected a most singularly unqualified man President in 2004, or after the cock-mocking Congressional campaign of 2006. I would not have believed it possible to mock American politics particularly after the selection to a major party ticket of a woman who claims foreign policy expertise because Russian planes fly over her porch daily.
And yet, led by this self-same "diplomat," American politics has sunk to a new low: the marriage of the bread-and-circus clown car distractions of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and, quite literally, professional wrestling to the American governance process.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before parodies of politicians started laying claim to Teabagger status. After all, it's been years since porn stars ran as Republicans, thus neatly dovetailing insanity with inanity. It turns out the Teabaggers are less an expression of American anger than an expression of American psychoses.
There is room in American politics for a populist movement that truly expresses the anger of the American people over the loss of our nation. Barack Obama leveraged that anger and channeled it into a successful Presidential run and to be sure, he has neither exhausted that anger nor vented it appropriately. I do not envy him the tightrope he has to walk to appease both the people on the left and the people on the right, all of whom have only grown angrier as the economy sank under President Bush, and has only shown glimmers of life under President Obama.
Populism has never been an effective tool of the right wing of this nation, no matter which party occupies that flank. The Teabaggers schizophrenia develops out of the fact that they are beholden to corporate interests while paying lip service to the interests of working people.
Think about it: the anger over government intrusion, the anger over higher taxes, the rage over a black man in power, these all speak to corporate interests, not to populist interests. Obama has lowered taxes on 98% of the people of this country. Obama has worked hard to enforce government oversight of critical areas like banking and corporate malfeasance but has done next to nothing to abduce the rights of the general population (altho he has neither rolled back infringements on those rights).
In short, Teabaggers are the orcs of their corporate Sarumans and Saurons. Mindless rabble intent only on sacrificing their intellect and fortunes to further the interests of those who would dispose of them in a heartbeat when the situation arises.
Populism, keeping the people first, has always meant progressivism. It was progressive populism that forced the nation to deal with pollution, with civil rights, with empowering women and minorities, because as the least of us is lifted, we all rise. A rising tide does lift all boats, it's true, but if that tide is rising because of rain "trickling down", it will cost us many boats. A rising tide from the mass of gravitational attraction will safely lift us all.
The left cries out for a populist movement. The left MUST create a populist movement. The perception that the left is nothing more than an aging bunch of hippies and socialists has to be turned into a positive image, one that can attract interest and more important, support that interest. It must not be mockable the way the Teabaggers are, and the way the right-wing corporate media has managed to make "liberal" a dirty word.
Republicans and right-wingers seem to have a farm system that churns out lock-stepped limpminds like clockwork. We on the left must develop this kind of training process, but effectively, that generates effective leaders. The Democratic Leadership Council, the DLC, that the Clintons helped inaugurate in the 90s went sort of nowhere, partially because of the Big Dog himself sucking all the air out of the room. Yes, it was centrist, but it was certainly better than the crap the right-wing has smeared on the walls of this nation since, and it could have spun off a truly progressive, truly populist movement.
We have to, each of us, start identifying people whom could make this happen, who could develop new philosophies of both candidacy and advocacy. The "leaders" we send out on television, from the Koses and the Marcottes to the Olbermanns and the Schultzes, they represent us partially, and partially is badly. We need to identify people who stop talking at an audience and start talking to them. We need to give people a reason to be liberal, not to run from the label.